Welcome to My World

Years ago, about twenty years ago, I ran with a group in Toronto called The Toronto Pacers. It was mainly made of men; only four of us weren’t and, usually, only 1 or 2 of us ran with the boys each week.

I loved running with the guys, and I trained with a few on the roads and at the pool through the week. Yes, I was slower than they were, but they always paced me through the start of our Sunday runs – only to leave me behind. I loved the rush of trying to keep up with them and fought hard to chase them to the finish. Those years formed my running personality; passing men at races is so satisfying (sorry, guys).

On Wednesday night, Shawn and I headed out for our tempo run. As we neared one of the trails in our neighbourhood, we noticed a group of 4 or 5 men, donning shorts and flashlights on a chilly fall night, trying to cross the road and head towards another trail. I wanted to get ahead before they crossed but had no luck; we had to work our way around them.

Shawn went first, swerved widely around them and said “Hello.” As they were answering, I went around them, saying “Have a good run, guys.”

“Hey! What’s going on here?” one cried.
“What the—,” yelled another.

We heard a few comments between them as we kept running and, once out of earshot, Shawn voiced his shock.

“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“Yeah, they were obviously okay with you but were pissed when I passed them.”
“It’s so sexist,” Shawn added. “Come on, guys. We’re all runners.”

I often hear comments like that. A few weeks ago, my friend, D., asked if there was a certain rule about passing people at races. She heard someone yell “You’re not allowed to do that!” and worried about what she had done wrong. “I get that all the time,” I told her. “It’s because you’re female, and they’re mad because you’re passing them.”

In the same vein, though, many men also offer words of encouragement. “Go get ‘er, girl,” stands out from a race last year when two men heard me coming from behind and got out of my way as they urged me to catch another female runner (and I did). At the Chocolate Race in the summer, one man urged me to stick with him for the last few kilometres – but I just couldn’t hold his pace. Those positive vibes and support from men does exist.

What I found so refreshing on Wednesday night was the shock that my male running buddy felt. But those same sexist tones raise my adrenalin and likely drop my pace a second or two. So, it’s not all bad.

But, really, guys. We are runners too – just runners with ponytails and Running Skirts.

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8 comments

  1. Seems like it could be a healthy motivator! I really don't like it either (hearing those kind of comments). I like all the ladies out there running. It makes it fun. I usually pick one that I think is a little faster than me and I focus on her and try to hang with her so I can pace off of her. It works for me. The pony tail and running skirt makes it easy to keep her in sight. Thanks for the post.

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  2. Let me apologize for them in advance of this comment.

    That would have been me 25 years ago. Happily not now. I welcome anyone who is faster than me to pass and then i try to catch or keep them in my sights. You are faster than me and I have to train smarter to be there.

    The old attitudes of some Men die hard. Keep running by them if they use it as motivation then great. remember they say what they say because they have not put in the extra work to get that fast or just are not fast enough. There comments are defense mechanisms for there own inadequacies.

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  3. Well good for your friend. I think it's changing somewhat but I do find that a lot of men still feel that way. I find it in races, a sense of “entitlement” to the space I'm in. Sometimes very frustrating. However I'm finding it with some women now as well. Picking up bad habits perhaps? Good post.

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  4. I'm there with the in-shock reaction.
    It's nearly the Year 2011, guys really need to get overthemselves and get out of the pathetic minority.
    I had two thoughts, 1. feel sorry for the guys' ignorance and shrug it off, 2. brass knuckles that say “balls in the air” as a nice reminder each time they look in the mirror.
    Shrugging is probably safer.
    Of course, didn't you just make fun of some guys and their comfortability talking about bras? 😉

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